Valencia: Beyond the more popular Spanish cities

It will be no surprise to my friends and family when I say I adore Valencia. It’s the only Spanish city I’ve visited (so far). I love it that much that I would hardly consider going anywhere else in Spain! I believe that Valencia is Spain’s greatest kept secret. Until now!

Sure, a lot of people have probably heard of Valencia, if not just from buying ‘Valencian OJ’ from M&S! But Valencian oranges aren’t even grown in Valencia! Technically, it may not be famous for its oranges but it’s tomatoes… Oh. My. God. I have half a mind to dedicate a whole post JUST to the freshness and quality of the tomatoes I gorged on in Valencia! Check out my other foodie posts coming soon dishing the dirt on all things tomatoes!

But back to the point…

Most people will choose to travel to Barcelona, Madrid or Seville over a trip to Valencia. This post aims to persuade you all that you should be visiting Valencia instead!

Valencian Beaches

There are plenty of beautiful beach towns in Spain but Valencia, as the third most populated city in Spain, enjoys less tourists year round than most other Spanish cities. Valencia has miles and miles of unspoilt and undeveloped beach, La Malvarossa being the closest and most popular of the city. In the summer months this area of the beach is still very busy with both locals and tourists despite Valencia not being a major tourist city, which must mean more people are starting to find Valencia.

On the two occasions I’ve visited Valencia I’ve chosen to stay at the quieter and more secluded beach area of La Patacona. Still close enough to the city but far enough away to appreciate some peace and quiet.

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From this area you can enjoy a wide expanse of beach on your doorstep for a fraction of the price of staying on La Malvarossa. You can also get the bus into town for the small fee of €1.50 each way, which takes around 30 minutes.

We actually stayed so far up the beach of La Patacona this time around that we saw around 12-15 people sunbathing around us a day. I’m certain that if I visited Barcelona this number would soar.

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This photo was taken at 1pm when we first arrived at our apartment. Look how empty it is!

This low number also probably had something to do with us travelling in May. Last time around we travelled in August, which was around the popular festival of La Tomatina held there each year.

This time we booked through Airbnb and we were even allowed late checkout for an extra €20. If you don’t already have Airbnb you can follow my link here and when you sign up you’ll get £25 off your first trip!

Tapas and Valencian Paella

I’ve only been to one Spanish city so I can’t confirm that Valencia has the best tapas in the country BUT the places we visited were exceptional!

Notable places worth eating at include:

I am reviewing each of these restaurants in a separate post so look out for these posts in the coming days!

Also worthy of mention are two other restaurants we love in the Rusafa area!

  • La Finestra; and
  • Canella Bistro.

La Finestra

La Finestra is the best way to sit back and relax after your first day of travelling. It’s a quirky little place that is a hybrid between a bookshop, someone’s living room and a pizzeria. I imagine it’s really popular with students looking for a quick, cheap and relaxed bite to eat. You can sit at a table, on a sofa-style bench or there is limited seating outside, too. Both times we’ve opted for the benches with cushions to really chill out.

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The food isn’t Spanish at all. The whole theme of the place is set around cheap pizza and cheap drinks but it’s definitely one to visit when you want a break from tapas! The staff speak pretty good English (way better than my Spanish!) and are happy to explain the concept to you.

Basically, you order an amount of pizzas and then they freestyle them. So you get brought random mini pizzas. Then if you’re still hungry, you order some more! I love this concept because you get to taste loads of different mini pizzas and the inundating pressure of choosing just one large pizza is taken away! Who wants one flavour pizza when you can have 6 variations!

Some are more exciting than others and we got more of a choice the first time we visited.

La Finestra, Valencia
We didn’t have beer this time round, this is a photo from the first trip. The Sangria was too good to resist this time!

The pizzas cost a mere €1.80! On top of this, the Sangria is mouth-wateringly excellent and you can buy a litre jug for €6!! They also do jugs of beer and you can also buy wine (not sure if they do jugs of wine). We bought 7 pizzas and 3 jugs of Sangria (yep, we were pretty mangled after that) and our bill came to €30.60! You’ve never seen competition like it!

Canella Bistro

Canella Bistro is owned by Ricard Camarena who is a well known name throughout Valencia. He also owns a michelin star restaurant that I haven’t yet visited. Canella Bistro is a mid-range, halfway between relaxed and sophisticated, style restaurant.

A lot of his dishes take influence from other popular eateries, such as his take on the NYC Katz Deli pastrami sandwich.

Canella Bistro, Valencia

I’ve got to admit, his version isn’t as good as the real thing but it is still very delicious and got me extremely excited at being able to taste a similar version without taking a flight to the US! They also do a scrumptious dessert wafer, larger than a normal person’s head, filled with Ferrero Roche ice cream, deeeeelicious!

Canella Bistro, Valencia

The City of Arts and Sciences

This area is one the coolest parts about Valencia. It is of cultural and architectural significance in the city and is one of the 12 wonders of Spain. However, it is also a symbol of mass over-expenditure and financial carelessness, which Valencia is still said to be struggling from.

As an outsider, it is a lovely place to wander about for a few hours. Being from London it is more of a normal occurrence to see extraordinary buildings just jump up into existence. To the people of Valencia, who have a lower wage of living, I imagine it caused outrage to a city and seafront that is largely undeveloped and would be paying for it.

City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia

There are various buildings within The City of Arts and Sciences that are all built in accordance with the theme of the building, such as L’hemisfèric which is an IMAX and planetarium building shaped like an eye which can open and close!

L'hemisferic, Valencia

My favourite is L’Oceanogràfic which is Valencia’s aquarium. It even houses walruses and beluga whales. They have a huge tunnel you walk through, a dolphinarium and a big enclosure for penguins, which I spent ages at and managed to film one penguin pushing the other off a rock! Lifetime achievement, check.

My friend actually said to me that she wanted to go to the aquarium but she thought it was too expensive and something you could do at home. Little did she know it’s the largest aquarium in Europe and they have loads going on in there! I would definitely recommend going, even if you think you’ve seen it all before. It is huge!

L’Umbracle is another picturesque view within the Art and Sciences area. It is an open arch structure home to various plants native to Valencia, such as lavender, honeysuckle and rosemary. It also contains a few art sculptures by some famous artists, such as Yoko Ono.

L'Umbracle, Valencia

L'Umbracle, Valencia

Turia Gardens

The City of Arts and Sciences is at the South of the Turia Gardens which is a pretty walk. Or, if you plan on seeing a bigger portion of the Gardens, I would suggest hiring bikes.

Turia Gardens, Valencia

This space was once the location of the river Turia until severe flooding meant local authorities needed to divert the river’s course away from Valencia. Now the Turia Gardens are home to lots of brightly coloured flowers, a slide park, a basketball court, a cafe, a Bioparc (zoo) at the far end, which we, disastrously, wandered to see. When we were almost there the heavens opened. Instead we ended up in an industrial park in burger king until the weather let up and by this point it was too late to go anymore! True Spanish tourism…

My favourite stop on our walk through the Gardens was Gulliver’s Parque. We saw this park on our cab ride back to the airport on our last visit. At first glance it just looks like a playground with really big slides all fitted together. On further inspection, it’s a huge 70 metre structure of Gulliver from the Jonathan Swift novels. The kids (and adults) playing on this whimsical structure are whisked away to a world where they too are Lilliputians climbing all over Gulliver. It’s a great concept!

Gullivers Park, Valencia

Gullivers Park, Valencia

We had an absolute blast. I haven’t been able to fit down a slide since about 10 years old, hence, I really embraced it! They aren’t like those slides that have excess friction either; the kind you have to hoist yourself down with all your might because you get stuck. Oh no, I almost catapulted off the end of this giant slide into the hard gravel floor! Also, I did not dress appropriately and would urge you all to deeply consider wearing something that covers you up so you don’t incur third degree slide burns! Though, this was an easy price to pay to act like a kid again.

Valencia City Centre

On this particular trip we didn’t venture into the city centre because we had seen most of the tourist attractions on our first trip. Also we were only in Valencia for three nights.

If you haven’t been before and have some spare time then it’s worthwhile to go into the centre. It is slightly busier but nothing like Oxford Street on a Saturday afternoon!

Plaza de la Virgen

Plaza de la Virgen is a lively square  and the most popular area for tourists because it is central to various historical attractions.

It is home to Valencia’s Cathedral and the bell tower, which, by chance, we were lucky enough to hear chime at midday whilst we were sitting in a cafe in the square. There are plenty of cafes to chill out and watch the world go by.

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It is also home to the Turia fountain which cascades in the background.

La Seu de València

This is Valencia’s Cathedral. A cross between neo-gothic, baroque and romanesque structure.

Centrally located in the Plaza de la Virgen, the Cathedral is believed to hold the Holy Grail used by Jesus in the last supper. Now, this could be a mere claim to fame but apparently more and more research suggests it could be the real relic.

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Torres de Serranos

The Serranos gates were the main entrance to the city hundreds of years ago. They originally served a defence mechanism. Then they were used as a prison. Now they serve as only a memory of what they used to be.

They are used for ceremonies and are open to the public to enjoy an amazing view over Valencia.

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Getting up there is tough, though! It’s extremely high up, there are a lot of stairs and most of the stairs don’t have hand rails. You’re often scaling about 30 steps of concrete at a time whilst clinging to the wall next to you. Anyone with a fear of heights should think twice!

Mercat Central

The market in Valencia is one of the central points of the city. They don’t really have big superstores like us to buy their food from. And why would you need them if you can get fresh food everyday from the market? Mercat Central is huge. You could get lost in there for hours buying fresh produce. From daily caught seafood, to fresh fruit, to homemade burgers and freshly made horchata (Valencian smoothie made from tiger nuts). You can find it all here and for a good price.

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The first time we visited we went to the market for some fresh food to cook breakfast and lunch with on a few days we didn’t fancy going out. But this time around we mostly ate out because we were only there a few days.

All in all, everyone needs to go to Valencia now and you will fall in love with it!

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